McAdam: Sox youth's struggles hurts trade value

McAdam: Sox youth's struggles hurts trade value
August 29, 2014, 2:15 pm
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The disappointing performances on the big league level by Jackie Bradley Jr., Brandon Workman and Allen Webster have been a double setback for the Red Sox in 2014.

On an obvious level, not getting the kind of production they had hoped for from those three impacted the major league team. Bradley, in particular, was counted on to be a near-everyday player in center and his ineptitude at the plate (.216/.288/.290) was a contributor to the team's disastrous season.

The inability of Workman (1-8, 4.93) and Webster (3-2, 5.81) to establish themselves as dependable major league starters, meanwhile, has hampered the team's ability to be competitive in the second half, as it searches for reliable replacements for veteran starters Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jake Peavy, all of whom were dealt off in deadline deals.

But beyond failing to contribute to the big league team's efforts this season, the failures of Bradley, Workman and Webster figure to hit the Red Sox a second time this off-season.

With the Sox in need of established starting pitching for 2015 and beyond, the consensus is that the Sox will need to bundle some of their prospects as part of a trade.

But the depressed value of some of the prospects could limit what the Sox could obtain in return.

Had Bradley hit more -- say, a slash line of .250/.325/.375 -- the Sox could have marketed him as the elite defender he is, but one with offensive upside.

Instead, thanks to Bradley's struggles, it will be hard for the Sox make the argument that Bradley is anything more than a dynamic defensive outfielder, valuable as a late-inning replacement and little more.

Workman and Webster, in the meantime, can't be seen as anything more than prospects, with potential for improvement. Had Workman and Webster had even brief periods of dominance at the big league level, their stock would have risen considerably as trading chips.

Worse, Workman appears to have taken a step backward, going from a poised young pitcher capable of pitching in high-leverage spots out of the bullpen a year ago to one who failed to establish any consistency in a number of opportunities in the Boston rotation.

That sort of regression can only hurt -- rather than enhance -- trade value.

All of which isn't to suggest that the likes of Bradley, Webster and Workman will have no value this winter.

Bradley's defensive brilliance is impossible to ignore and there are undoubtedly teams who believe they can coax more from him offensively. Workman and Webster have a track record of success at the minor league level and each has a foundation for success. Workman needs to find a way to rediscover his velocity and improved arm speed, while Webster must still improve his consistency and command.

There is plenty to like still about all three. The game is full of successful young players whose development wasn't as linear as teams would have liked.

Still, it's not an optimal situation for a team seeking to fill needs through the selling off of some of their prospects.

"When a player fails at the big league level,'' said a talent evaluator with another major league club, "there are consequences [to the team]. It gives you less leverage because there are question marks. If those players have performed better, [the Red Sox] would be dealing from a position of strength. They'd have some leverage. But because they've been exposed a bit at the major leagle level, some of the luster is off. Your position isn't as strong.''

Perhaps the two prospects with the highest value in the Red Sox system are pitcher Henry Owens and catcher Blake Swihart. They have yet to make their major league debuts and are unlikely to do so in September, since neither is currently on the 40-man roster.

And while Owens and Swihart are considered virtually untouchable by the organization, perhaps this is irrelevant. But the fact that they haven't yet failed preseves their value.

The same, however, can't be said for Bradley, Workman and Webster.